Counterfeits: Tips for identifying counterfeit products

Name-brand products at cheap prices? If you are not careful, you may end up purchasing a counterfeit branded product while shopping online or at a holiday destination. At first glance, counterfeit products may appear to be as stylish and genuine as the real thing, but at a reduced price. However, the purchase of counterfeit products is problematic on several levels. In the worst case scenario, you may end up with an unsafe product that can pose a danger to you and others. For example, some products may contain substances that are harmful to your health or the environment or otherwise do not comply with EU safety regulations.

Many European countries have adopted strict regulations on the purchase and sale of counterfeit goods. For example, a tourist visiting Italy can be fined up to EUR 10,000 for purchasing a counterfeit product. In addition, counterfeiting has adverse economic effects on society, and the counterfeit goods market is often linked to organised crime.

The European Consumer Centres throughout Europe arranged a joint anti-counterfeiting campaign in August and shared tips on how consumers can identify counterfeit products while shopping online or on holiday. The information package and visual materials for this theme were created by the Swedish office of the European Consumer Centre.

Shopping online

While it is difficult to check products in detail when shopping online, consumers should still attempt to verify the authenticity of each product before making a purchase.

  • Check the seller’s information, especially if you have not previously shopped with or heard of the online store in question. Can you find any other way to contact the online store or seller than through an online form? Has the seller provided a street address or any information on the country in which the seller’s company is located? How can you contact the seller if there is a problem with your purchase? You should never rely solely on an email or P.O. box address.
  • Compare the price of the product in different stores. Counterfeit products are often sold at a significantly lower price than in the online stores of official retailers. “A price that seems too good to be true” is often an indication of a counterfeit product.
  • Read the reviews posted by other customers about this seller. Use a search engine to see what other consumers have written about the company. Be critical of what your read and remember that some reviews may even be fake.
  • Check whether the online store looks professional. Some websites that sell counterfeit products are riddled with spelling and grammar errors. Are the images on the store poor in quality or do they look a little strange? This could be an indication that the website is selling illegally manufactured copies of original products.
  • Read the online store’s terms and conditions. A reliable online store will clearly explain its terms and conditions for orders and provide clear instructions on what buyers must do if there is an issue with their order or if they wish to e.g. return or replace a product.
  • If you are purchasing electronics or other such products, look for their warranty information. Counterfeit products come with no warranties.
  • Check the list of authorised dealers of each brand from their official websites. By ordering a product from an authorised dealer, you can be sure that the product you have purchased is genuine.
  • When paying, always make sure that the website has a secure payment indicator. Whenever possible, pay with a credit card. Always save your payment and order confirmations.
  • If Finnish Customs suspects that the product you have ordered online is a counterfeit, it may prevent your order from entering the country.

Shopping while on holiday

If you buy branded products while on holiday abroad, it is important that you attempt to verify the authenticity of each product. And remember – most counterfeit products are also illegal. Counterfeits may often be cheap, but they could end up costing you so much more.

  • Examine the product’s materials and details. Counterfeit products are often clearly inferior in quality. Check the product’s stitching and labels carefully. These will often appear faulty and carelessly made. Check that the name of the brand has been spelled correctly and that its logo is correct. Read the labels and washing instructions – these often contain errors or omissions in counterfeit products.
  • Check the product’s lining and pockets. The insides of branded products are often as carefully made as their outer surfaces. Counterfeiters usually work on the basis of photographs and may lack a good image of the inside of a product.
  • Check the product’s packaging. Verify that it contains the same brand or brand name as the purchased product.
  • Check where the product has been manufactured.
  • Check the product’s price. Compare this price to the price in the brand’s own store. If the price seems too good to be true, the product is most likely a counterfeit.
  • Ask for a receipt for your purchase.
  • Remember that goods sold by private individuals may also be counterfeits. Ask where the product was purchased as well as for any receipts and possible warranties.
  • Do not purchase any branded products that are sold to you at a beach or on the street.

In 2020, the European Consumer Centre Network will have a common theme for European consumers each month, which they will communicate on their own channels in 30 different countries. The theme months are part of the 15th Anniversary of the European Consumer Centres.

More information on the European Consumer Centre’s anniversary theme:

The theme for January is responsibility. European Consumer Centre news, 13/01/2020 (in Finnish).
The theme for February is recognising subscription traps in social media. European Consumer Centre news, 04/02/2020 (in Finnish).
The theme for March is statutory liability for lack of conformity, guarantees, and the right to cancellation. European Consumer Centre news, 13/03/2020 (in Finnish).
The theme for April is the impact of the coronavirus crisis on consumer protection. European Consumer Centre news, 15/04/2020 (in Finnish)
The theme for May is travel packages. European Consumer Centre news, 29/05/2020 (in Finnish)
The theme for June is the safe use of streaming services. European Consumer Centre news, 11/06/2020 (in Finnish)
The theme for July is the rights of airline passengers. European Consumer Centre news, 17/07/2020 (in Finnish).